With ARC Linkage Projects scheme funding, Professor Joy Damousi—an ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellow—and her research team at The University of Melbourne and their partners, are working to redress the ongoing invisibility of Australian farm women in cultural, historical and contemporary narrative.

In this largest ever study of Australian women on the land, over 400 stories have been collected and published on the Invisible Farmer website, documenting women’s experiences in rural Australia. The project has reframed the narrative of rural Australia—gaining media attention and helping raise the profile of women in farming.

In 2017, an outcome of the project was an exhibition at Melbourne Museum, ‘Women of the Land’ which explored the history of women farmers, who despite making up nearly half of the farming workforce, went unrecognised by the Australian census until 1994. The census only included the categories of ‘helpmate’, or ‘farmer’s wife’ as their occupation. The exhibit was a partnership with Museums Victoria, the Invisible Farmer project and Her Place Women’s Museum Australia.

The project also produced a Symposium, ‘Australian Women in Agriculture: Past, present and future’, which was held at The University of Melbourne in March 2018 to celebrate 100 years since the first woman, Irene Lowe, graduated from Agricultural Science.

As an ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellow, Professor Damousi is an ambassador and mentor for women in Humanities, Arts and Social Science research. Professor Damousi is also president of the Australian Academy of Humanities, where she is leading an ARC Learned Academy Special Project to provide an account of Australia’s humanities academic workforce, and plan for its future knowledge and skills requirements.

Image: Sallie Jones of Gippsland Jersey, Jindivick (Victoria),
Photographer: Catherine Forge, Source: Museums Victoria.